A Dialogue on Creating a Sustainable Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in Lesotho

By Khothatso Kolobe

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The ball was set rolling by an urge to make the Mafisa Talks’ more of an interaction than a conversation from the Kick4Life representative.

The host was ‘Maleballo. Our panelists were Garikai from Harambe, Rethabile from Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Sobane from Hyperion. We will share the talk as it unfolded because it was relaxed and educational.

How a sustainable entrepreneurship ecosystem can be created

Garikai believed that before sustaining, we should talk about the foundation of a network, which is similar to core principles and values that bolster a marriage of synergies.

Rethabile is of opinion that a majority of people do not understand entrepreneurship. What gap are we trying to close? We should understand what entrepreneurship is. From her perspective, an entrepreneur is someone with a vision and the will to go an extra mile. Entrepreneurship has to go beyond a solution to unemployment.

Sobane questioned what it is that we are trying to sustain. Does it even exist? There is a distinction between entrepreneurs and business people. We should understand the context, our environment. Entrepreneurship is about solving something that affects you directly, that would assist others when solved.

A focus was placed on the definition of the key terms. Sustainability was considered as meeting present needs and wants without jeopardizing the well-being of future generations. Entrepreneurship is the art of adding value, solving problems and making money in the process. An ecosystem is an environment inclusive of institutions and policies that support entrepreneurship.

Ideas related to business and entrepreneurship coexistence

Rethabile expressed that people become business people instead of entrepreneurs. She made a distinction between entrepreneurs and business people through the story of Mr Lelimo, who started a businesses out of nothing; ntate Lelimo started by selling cigarettes before getting to own Maseru Toyota.

I recalled his empowering speech from one event at Victory Hall by advocate Mary Bosiu. He was indeed a glowing example of entrepreneurship. Something I had read a while ago on Instagram surfaced in my memory. It was a post that illustrated that being in business was just buying something cheaply and selling it at a profit. Conversely, entrepreneurship was about adding value in an innovative manner that generated extremely high levels of income.

Issues on information dissemination

There was also concern about information dissemination from technocrats to the youth. Explaining that people end up not knowing how to position themselves. Which kills the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Rethabile admitted that technocrats should be educated and have passion, citing the difference between having a career and employment.

Ways to do business with big corporates

Tearing and classifying a pool of people. Focus on solutions and innovation with passion. Chain of sustainability. Understand data, which is the new oil. New tech solutions with data. Name drop where necessary. Embrace competition because it triggers innovation. People starting the same business should inspire each other to continually improve. The notion of incubators is great as those companies are already networked and well skilled.

Spetzo made an eloquent comment about sustaining an entrepreneurship ecosystem from being able to do something without expecting immediate pay and formalizing things.

There was also an argument about holding Basotho to high quality versus compromising. Overpricing was also viewed as a problem with Basotho products. I was reminded (I get reminded a lot) of a story of a Chinese businessman who admitted that he would never buy a non-Chinese product even if it was of superior quality at a lower price because it was a matter of principle.

It is a humongous challenge to convince people to shop local and hold back on their unrealistic quality expectations of local products. Most people with high class attitudes never really tried selling anything of their own in their lives. They have never experienced the pain of trying to offer something of value and being rejected by your very own people you thought would support you.

Buy local and constructively criticize where necessary; it is a matter of principle if we are to have a sustainable entrepreneurship ecosystem. All the above could be done if entrepreneurs device feedback mechanisms and fully exploit the value chains for their goods and service. Documentation that influences policy was another brilliant comment followed by a suggestion that talks should grow into incubation centres as they facilitate maintenance of a talent pool.

What’s the way forward?

Sox stated that pursuing collective action can bring about the desired results. There should be incubation centres and acceleration programs for the management of the already existing talent pool. He also added that for efficient and best performance, services should be decentralized from Maseru, this includes services like company registration. There should be hub-like platforms that can centralize resources thereby bringing about ease of access for everything.

He continued to urge us to go out if need be to personally give our government a wake-up call. He concluded by saying that for us to achieve a sustainable entrepreneurship ecosystem we need to become a community that can leverage each other’s expertise.

Rethabile asked if the attendees could clearly say they understood what a sustainable entrepreneurship ecosystem is. She said we ought to continually ask ourselves what it is that each of us can do to help another entrepreneur make their business sustainable.

Gari closed off by saying that there should be connections between the players, creating ease of sharing of information and resources. If you think of yourself and the company of people you keep around you, is it enabling; their ethics, values and persona? You should keep a company of like-minded people to sustain the entrepreneurship ecosystem. Above everything else, localize all activities and operations!

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